Boat Building in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland

By Groth, Susan Charles T. | Western Folklore, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Boat Building in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland


Groth, Susan Charles T., Western Folklore


Boat Building in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Revised edition. By David A. Taylor. (Gatineau, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, 2006. United States distribution by the University of Washington Press, Seattle. Pp. xxii + 164, abstract, foreword, preface, acknowledgments, introduction, maps, photographs, illustrations, tables, graphs, illustrations, tables, graphs, chapter notes, appendices, glossary, bibliography. $29.95 paper)

In 1985, I learned how to use oakum and a caulking iron to seal the deck of the schooner Ernestina. David Taylor's Boat Building in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, brought it all back: the fibrous oakum; the fanning blade of the caulking iron; the piney smell of oil, wood, and sweat. More importantly, though, Taylor's book ably preserves the memories of others. Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News (1993) and of this revised edition's foreword, says even fewer people since this work's original publication in 1982 possess the boat building skills that Taylor's volume describes. The new edition also calls attention to changes in folkloristics as it presents the master's thesis of a scholar and teacher who has since led many more preservation efforts at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Proulx's foreword attests to Taylor's foresight and the success of his preservation efforts, which include not only this book, but support for the Winterton Boat Building Museum (2003). A strength of Boat Building in Winterton is the original photographs and diagrams that carefully detail the construction of the small craft, helping correct a dearth of written records of boat design. Boat Building in Winterton joins materials from the regional archive with maritime and local history books to make them more accessible, thus supporting cultural tourism, which has helped replace income in the decline of Winterton's fishing industry.

Taylor integrates the visuals with descriptive prose, which is necessary but not quite so successful as the historical sections. While words such as "oakum" and "caulking iron" admitted me to the collective memory, I found myself excluded later on, when technical terms were used before being introduced. Readers may find themselves paging back and forth in search of definitions with which to untangle jargon. The detailed diagram and glossary near the end of the book are helpful, but a more complete diagram, an index, and careful editing are needed to promote ease of reading. The dense descriptions may partly reflect Taylor's struggle as a new scholar dealing with the multiple audiences that public-sector folklorists must address-here, communities seeking to preserve their traditions and folklorists looking for theory and data to use in other studies. The second audience will likely find the boatbuilding language off-putting, while the first might find the detailed discussion of research methodology excessive. …

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